Skip to comments.Missile Defense Is Crucial
Posted on 08/21/2006 3:37:25 PM PDT by Paul Ross
Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Missile Defense Is Crucial
Charles R. Smith
Thursday, Aug. 17, 2006
The summer of 2006 has been quite a show.
The wave of missiles and missile threats has left us with a major turning point in modern military history.
First, the global concern over Iran and its fledgling nuclear weapons program reached the United Nations.
The diplomats seem to have few options to control the wild-eyed leadership in Tehran. The Iranians, meanwhile, are using the time to continue their nuclear option along with a robust missile development. A reaction to this was easily visible inside Israel, the number one target of any future Iranian missile attack.
The Israelis have upgraded their new Arrow defense missile system and increased the effective range of its Greenpine control radar. The anticipation of a future strike from Iran also forced Israel closer to the United States in seeking a common missile defense system.
The first sign of this is the advanced versions of the PAC-3 Patriot arriving in Israel, followed by a quick series of successful tests by the IDF.
Then we had the rush of launches from North Korea. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il's fascination with long range bottle-rockets reached its peak when a Tae Po Dong 2 missile failed after 40 seconds of flight. The data from various sources in South Korea, Japan, and from warships stationed off the North Korean coast showed the Tae Po Dong 2 was aimed at Hawaii.
Japan is responding to the threat. A leading Japanese paper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, stated that Tokyo is considering a faster track for deployment of its own anti-missile system.
The report came a day after the Japanese parliament approved legislation allowing for a rapid response to any ballistic missile attack. According to the report, Japan will start deploying a missile shield by the end of March 2007.
Under the current plan, Japan will start deploying Patriot 3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air missiles in 2006. In addition, one of Japan's four Aegis destroyers is to be refitted with SM-3 missiles.
The bill was enacted by parliament's upper house revised the current law that requires the approval of the cabinet and Japanese security council to shoot down an incoming missile. The new law allows the defense minister to issue orders to shoot down any incoming missile without seeking approval from the cabinet and security council.
The final act of the summer - or at least for the moment - came from Hezbollah and Lebanon. The rain of rockets over the Israeli border brought a swift retaliation and loads of lethal firepower from the IDF. The Hezbollah rocket barrage turned out to be no more than minimal threat even to civilians. The data shows that only 39 civilians were killed by the estimated 4,000 missiles fired by Hezbollah and over half of these people were Arabs.
However, Israel was unable to defend itself against the rain of short range missiles fired by Hezbollah. The Hezbollah attacks are seen as a warning. Future opponents will use more sophisticated weapons potentially armed with more deadly warheads.
The lack of a defense has brought back a system jointly developed by the United States and Israel. The Israeli government is working with the United States to restart a canceled laser anti-missile system named THEL, which stands for "Tactical High Energy Laser."
The manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, originally developed THEL for combat but it remained cumbersome to deploy, requiring several vehicles that covered nearly a football field. However, live fire tests demonstrated that THEL was very successful.
Tests last year showed the powerful chemical laser was able to knock down barrages of incoming mortar shells, short range rockets and even artillery shells. Israel dropped out of the project early in 2006 because of the multi-billion dollar cost.
Now the Israelis want a new version of THEL.
The developer of THEL, Northrop Grumman, has openly stated that it can have the laser anti-missile system ready in 18 months, at a development cost of $400 million.
The estimate is that each THEL unit would cost about $50 million, and eight or nine would be required to cover the Lebanese border. Northrop Grumman is also offering a smaller version of the laser defense system called Skyguard.
Skyguard is designed to be deployed around airports to protect commercial aircraft from man portable anti-aircraft missiles.
THEL was offered to the U.S. Army. However, the cost and lack of mobility for such a large system led the Army to select a variation of the U.S. Navy Phalanx system.
Phalanx is a point-defense 20 mm gun that provides a defense against incoming targets.The Phalanx Gatling gun fires cannons shell at either 3,000 or 4,500 rounds-per-minute. The system has proven itself to be very reliable and effective against incoming targets.
The Army selection is a fine choice for battlefield operations but it is not designed to defend potential targets such as the "Green" zone inside Baghdad from mortar or rocket fire. Phalanx, like any gun system, fires projectiles.
In the case of Phalanx, hundreds or even thousands of bullets fly out of the system in only a few seconds. Those that miss any incoming target continue on in a ballistic flight and fall to the ground.
The U.S. Navy does not have a problem with shells falling harmlessly into unpopulated seas. However, a spray of 20 mm shells fired from the Baghdad Green zone at incoming mortar rounds will fall in the surrounding populated areas with predictable results.
THEL, like any energy weapon, has no such problem. The laser beam does not have the kind of potential for "collateral" damage that Phalanx does since spent shells do not fall to the ground.
Thus, it is no surprise that the Army has a renewed interest in THEL and the newer Skyguard system. Israel would like the United States to help with the cost of purchasing THEL and Skyguard. Israel already gets over $2 billion a year in military aid from America, and a new anti-missile laser defense can come out of that aid.
Clearly the new laser defense systems could be very useful in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lasers and anti-missile systems like Arrow and Patriot PAC-3 are the future. Iran and North Korea have demonstrated that their missile programs are the future threat.
A solid defense is needed to deal with this threat.
The summer is not over yet but we already can draw some distinct conclusions. The prime lesson learned is that a missile defense is necessary and available.
This reminds me of one of the key logistics lessons of WW-II...the best is often the enemy of the good enough. Remember how the politician...Hitler in that case...messed with the Wehrmacht's first jet designs which were fighters...instead of ordering immediate production, he told them to change it into a bomber. By the time Germany had finished those, and essentially begun to make alternative jet fighters (reversing that initial decision)...it was too late to make a difference.
So many of our decisions in procurement today seem to be predicated on extreme over-confidence about the amount of time we have to be fully prepared. There is just no proper sense of the imminence of a major disasterous attack on the U.S. and its allies....and no sense of urgency in procurements. And this goes all the way to the top... September 10th mind-sets, it's not just an attitude of the RATs.
A good point. No secondary ballistic effects, and the muzzle velocity can't be beat.
What it does need is lazing time.
Once it's tracking the target it takes time to "bake" the target enough to get either a breakup or explosion.
Now there is an interesting fact that should be screamed from the rooftops!
We Want THEL!
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